What if the Sixers had traded for Tracy McGrady in 1999?


We’ve all probably heard about it by now, that fateful night in 1999 where the Sixers were mere minutes away from acquiring Tracy McGrady (in a trade via the Toronto Raptors). With the deal agreed upon by both sides, and reporters already calling it a done deal (Stephen A. Smith), the Raptors backed out.

The possibility of an Iverson & McGrady super-team duo was gone, and the Sixers would fail to ever come close to giving A.I. a legit co-star. McGrady was traded to the Orlando Magic instead, and Iverson would obviously stay in Philly for quite some time. The two would combine for six scoring titles and 18 All-Star game appearances. However, neither would ever obtain the ultimate prize of winning an NBA championship.

What if, in an alternate timeline, the Raptors in fact didn’t back out. Larry Hughes and a first-round pick would be shipped away to Toronto, and McGrady would join Iverson in the city of brotherly love, creating one of the greatest scoring tandems in NBA history.

Now the obvious question that needs answering when it comes to this scenario, how would the addition of McGrady have affected the Sixers chances in the 2001 Finals? 

Iverson was playing at an MVP level during the 2000-01 season. Averaging 31.1 points per game, there was no question on who “the guy” was in Philly. Even with the addition of someone like T-Mac, this likely doesn’t change. McGrady had yet to fully break into his own yet, averaging just 15.4 ppg during his final year with the Raptors. While playing next to Iverson would have no doubt helped the Sixers title chances, it likely would have stunted McGrady’s growth a bit.

Even then, McGrady averaging 15-20 as a firm number two option would have been leaps and bounds better than what the 76ers had in ‘01. The team surely would have found themselves squaring up with the Lakers in the Finals regardless, possibly even shaving off a few games in the previous series.

Where things maybe get a little bit easier for Sixers fans to stomach, is when it comes to rationalizing that even with the addition of T-Mac, the team had no shot against the Lakers. Spearheaded by Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal, the 2001 Lakers were borderline unstoppable. The 76ers would still, unfortunately, have no one to guard Shaq down low.

Post 2001, the duo of Iverson and McGrady would in theory have run the eastern conference for years to come. Barring no frustrations arising over touches, having two Hall of Famers in their prime on your team is normally a recipe for success.

The Sixers likely would have had a rematch or two against the Lakers in the early 2000s, and maybe even met up with the Tim Duncan-led Spurs later down the road. While it’s possible the partnership of McGrady and Iverson would have been good enough to steal a ring, there were some incredibly good teams coming out of the western conference during those years. It’s not unreasonable to assume that the duo would fail to ever win a championship together.

Ultimately, hearing that a trade like this fell through leaves every Sixers fan with a bad taste in their mouth. Many feel the organization never did enough to surround A.I. with help, and seeing that they were actually extremely close in doing so makes it hurt even more. Whether the trade would have resulted in a ring, it’s hard to tell. However, there’s no doubt that seeing Iverson and T-Mac as Philly teammates would have been something special.

Check out some of the recent entries in our other Sixers-related series running at the moment:

“Rewinding the Process”: https://phillysportsnetwork.com/2020/04/15/rewinding-the-process-jerami-grant-the-one-that-got-away/

“Sixers’ Draft Preview”: https://phillysportsnetwork.com/2020/04/17/sixers-draft-preview-nico-mannion/

“Top 5 Sixers Games of the Year”: https://phillysportsnetwork.com/2020/04/13/top-5-sixers-games-of-the-year-statement-win-over-the-clippers/

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